I spoke with Mayor Segarra in person at Elizabeth Park.
What are your top three favorite things (events, places, people, etc) about Hartford?
Before we sat down to talk outside of the Pond House, Segarra said a few words thanking representatives from Knox Parks and “Friends of” various city parks at a dinner in the Banquet Hall. In his remarks, he described the parks and green spaces as one of Hartford’s assets.
That’s the type of comment to expect when addressing an audience of park enthusiasts, but I wondered if he would be consistent when later I asked about the positive aspects of Hartford.
“The people, the diversity, the different communities of people, the culture” were ranked first on the mayor’s list of favorite things. This was followed by architecture, parks, and historical sites. He named the Lyric, Lyceum, Billings Forge, and the John E. Rogers House as examples of architecture and historical sites. Segarra described the old industrial buildings as being “underutilized” historical landmarks.
“Institutions — public, corporate, and religious” ranked third on his list of favorite things about Hartford. Among them, he named the United Way and Real Art Ways.
What are three specific and measurable actions you would take to boost the city?
“There’s just so much,” Segarra said, and paused.
Naming projects like the Swift Factory, Coltsville, and iQuilt, Segarra noted the need to “turn these plans into realities.” To get the financial resources, he said that the mayor “needs to be a good matchmaker to build partnerships” which are “key in this economy.”
“Economic expansion,” including increasing jobs and the Grand List, was described as another of Segarra’s priority items.
But, he said, “we have to build a place that people will want to come to,” which means focusing on “parks, arts, culture, and tourism.” There will be a new effort for marketing, he said, along with supporting small businesses.
How do you plan to deal with absentee landlords who neglect their properties?
“It does worry me,” he said, of the blighted properties. Part of the blight “is tied to housing crash, but part is due to landlord neglect.
Segarra said that the City has started working on this, but there is need for “someone who knows about development.” He would add more inspectors and attorneys, and pull more resources for demolition. He spoke about partnering with Habitat for Humanity; there is need to work “consistently” with the State and HUD.
How are you qualified for this job position?
I expected the mayor to respond with the easy answer that incumbents rely on: experience. While he did name experience, he did not give the standard I already know the ropes type of response. Instead, Segarra began by saying that he has worked for over three decades in the community.
“I worked my butt off,” he said, of the time when he was on the City Council. Segarra believed to have “demonstrated that [he] took the job seriously.”
When I spoke with Segarra, he had already put in more than a full day’s worth of work. At a time in the evening when most people are home with their families, he opted to sit and chat with a reporter. He noted that the job requires “you to give up your family,” a sacrifice he wondered if other candidates realized.
How do you keep your finger on Hartford’s pulse, and if elected, how will you make yourself available to your constituents?
By the time we reached this stage of the conversation, it felt silly to ask. People approached Segarra to ask him brief questions or just say hello. An elderly woman from West Hartford stopped over to tell him that she thinks he’s “doing a good job.” Segarra excused himself for a few minutes to speak with a constituent who was visiting Elizabeth Park with her friends. Though he did not say it, he has been approachable in a way that the previous mayor was not.
So, when he said, “I’m constantly meeting with people,” he really could not be accused of exaggeration.
Segarra described himself as being “very good at observation” and a “good listener.” When the conversation veered away from the interview questions, he was able to bring it back without asking for anything to be repeated.
He also said that he reads a lot and makes himself available at community meetings.
A good way to judge how in tune candidates are with the people and city is how often you see them at regular (re: not just the galas) events when they are not campaigning.
Note: Segarra himself sent me a “thank you” email following the interview.
To learn more about Mayor Segarra, visit his website, check out his Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter. You can also check out some of Real Hartford’s record of coverage on this candidate:
9 June 2011: Mayoral Candidate Forum Spotlights Pressing Issues like Robocars and Raspberries
8 June 2011: Mayoral Candidates: The Polished Version
21 March 2011: Green Ribbon Task Force Proposes
14 March 2011: State of the City 2011
28 September 2010: Developing Connective Tissue in Downtown
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.